Goodbye Days - Jeff Zentner

Carver Briggs never thought a simple text would cause a fatal crash, killing his three best friends, Mars, Eli, and Blake. Now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident and even worse, there could be a criminal investigation into the deaths.

Then Blake’s grandmother asks Carver to remember her grandson with a ‘goodbye day’ together. Carver has his misgivings, but he starts to help the families of his lost friends grieve with their own memorial days, along with Eli’s bereaved girlfriend Jesmyn. But not everyone is willing to forgive. Carver’s own despair and guilt threatens to pull him under into panic and anxiety as he faces punishment for his terrible mistake. Can the goodbye days really help?

Jeff Zentner has now officially made me cry at least once during each of his books. The Serpent King was gorgeous, and sad, and just... well, amazing. Goodbye Days is gorgeous, and sad, and just... well, amazing, too! 

Where Zentner excels is in developing characters. I can't help but find myself drawn to his protagonists. Carver Briggs is a character that you will likely remember for some time after closing the book. He is emotionally complex, totally torn up inside, and his love for his male friends goes beyond what we normally see in YA. Even though Carver's friends are not fully a part of the novel (seeing as they're dead at the beginning), readers can see them fully fleshed out through Carver's recollections and the flashbacks Zentner offers up.

There is a lot of other great stuff beyond the characters, too, of course. Zentner tackles issues of race, class, and homophobia through a mixture of humour and harsh truths. As Carver begins to experience Goodbye Days with each of the families of his dead friends, not only does he grow emotionally, but readers are given the opportunity to see some skillfully constructed moments of dialogue and interplay between characters. Each of these experiences is completely different and works on a completely different emotional level, but they are all poignant and delightfully nuanced.

Carver is lonely and trying his best to deal with the guilt and grief. But with the help of Jesmyn (his dead friend Eli's now-ex-girlfriend), his therapist, and the goodbye days he experiences, he becomes a better person overall and is able to start sorting out his part in the accident and how he can begin to move forward.

I have to say that as of right now, Jeff Zentner has not disappointed! I cannot wait to see what he comes up with next, though as with Adam Silvera, I kind of hope Zenter's next book has a slightly happier trajectory! (*hint hint* Jeff!)

Highly Recommended


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